Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV) … “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 is a life verse for many. Life verse you may ask? Well that is just what it sounds like, a verse to use as a guide for living. Now we know we must build our faith upon the full Word of God, but verses like this one here in Proverbs do help us keep the big things in focus. So, what does this great passage have to give us then? The answer is a steadfast faith in God! Notice three admonishments we are given about trusting in God. Jim Newheiser, in his commentary on Proverbs, does a great job of outlining these verses for us.
Trust God entirely, ‘with all your heart’ (v. 5a). God demands an undivided commitment to himself. Too often Israel had a loyalty divided between the Lord and the false gods of the nations. We can be tempted to trust the wisdom of the world rather than rely upon divine revelation. The psalmist says, ‘I hate those who are double-minded’ (Ps. 119:113). Jesus said, ‘No one can serve two masters’ (Matt. 6:24a), and he taught that the greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30).
Trust God exclusively, and ‘do not lean on your own understanding’ (v. 5b). By nature we are inclined to foolishly rely upon our own inclinations and desires: ‘All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way’ (Isa. 53:6). Many people make crucial life decisions in areas such as marriage, finances, and vocation not based upon God’s revealed Word but their feelings. Proverbs tells us that our feelings are unreliable: ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death’ (14:12); ‘he who trusts in his own heart is a fool’ (28:26a). A man may feel that he would be happier if he were to divorce his wife. A mother may not feel like using the rod of discipline on her children. In their quest to grow, churches may be tempted to resort to worldly methodologies that compromise biblical principles. The wise man does not lean on his own understanding but trusts that God’s way is best. The one who chooses his own way arrogantly claims that he knows better than God.
Proverbs also warns us against being improperly influenced by other people: ‘The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted’ (29:25). We must evaluate the counsel and influence of friends, family members, and worldly experts against the Word of God, and we must have the courage to risk their disapproval when Scripture directs us otherwise. The command to trust God also brings to mind the way of salvation. Conversion takes place when we repent of trusting in our own goodness and wisdom and put our faith in what God has done for us in Christ (Eph. 2:8–9).
Trust God extensively: ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him’ (v. 6a). We are not merely to acknowledge God’s lordship over our religious life; we are to bring God’s truth to bear on every aspect of life. We trust him in how we run our families, our education, our careers, our finances, and our friendships. He is Lord of all! Abraham Kuyper said, ‘In the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, “That is mine!” ’ The wise person is characterized by continuous contemplation of God and a ready observance of his will, not only in the great issues of life but also in day-to-day routine. No matter is too small for God’s attention. To paraphrase one commentator, it is self-idolatry to think we can carry on even the most ordinary matters without his counsel.
God blesses those who trust him: ‘He will make your paths straight’ (v. 6b). The person who trusts God entirely, exclusively, and extensively will enjoy success in life.